by Jeff Skinner
The speculation continues that PGA Tour player Rory Sabbatini’s withdrawal from this week’s Memorial Tournament is due to a 30 day suspension handed out by the PGA Tour brass. Neither Sabbatini nor the Tour would confirm any suspension but rumors have persisted for a month ever since Sabo screamed at a tour volunteer and then had a shouting match on the course with Sean O’Hair. Sabbatini has the reputation of being a difficult playing partner due to his preference for faster play and his dislike for slow play on the course. In a survey taken of PGA Tour players he was voted the player you least want to be paired with on tour.
It should be noted that Sabbatini stated he needed a break from playing and since he had just qualified for the Open Championship this was a good time for him to rest. He did play in last year’s Memorial but the three years prior he took time off and only played in The U.S. Open and The Open Championship and that is his new schedule this season.
The PGA Tour insists on keeping all suspensions and fines confidential and I believe that is counter-productive. They should make the suspensions and fines public much like the NFL does. They promote their last portion of the season as “The Playoffs” much like the NFL so they should copy that also. I think if they were to make disciplinary actions public it may help the tour. Each week slow players are fined and if the public knew the culprits maybe they would be more likely to change things up a bit. By keeping fines secret, all the Tour does is feed the gossip and speculation about what really is happening. It’s time they let their fans in on what is really going on when it comes to disciplining the players.
by Jeff Skinner
It was another exciting weekend in golf and if you’re a real golf fan you are not missing the injured Tiger Woods or the resting Phil Mickelson. There was enough good golf and interesting storylines around the world to satisfy any golf junkie.
All week the talk coming from Wentworth was that the European Tour’s BMW Championship was better than the PGA Tour’s Players Championship. Who is number one and which tour is stronger were the questions everyone had an opinion on. Well at least one question was answered this weekend. Luke Donald is the number one player in the world. Donald and Westwood’s battle for the top spot was great theater. Donald, having attained first place in the Official World Golf Rankings has an unusual explanation. He says becoming a father was the catalyst for his recent success. “Looking back to the birth of my first child my golf has only gone from strength to strength,” Donald told reporters after his dramatic triumph. ”It has been a real blessing to become a father. It has given me a responsibility as a person – I’ve grown up and become a better person. It is nice to come home to even when you finish second or you don’t quite close out a tournament – when I have got her little face smiling back at me, you are able to forget things pretty quickly. And being able to do that I have been able to put some of the disappointments behind me pretty quickly. She is an inspiration to me. Watching her grow, and every day, learning new skills, adapting and becoming better and better at what she is – that is what I am trying to do at golf too. Every day I try and figure a way to improve and she does that every day.” Some guys credit their swing coach. For Donald it is being a parent, nice.
Rookie PGA Tour Player Keegan Bradley has spent all of his initial season on The PGA Tour being referred to as “Pat Bradley’s nephew.” Now you can call him PGA Tour winner, Keegan Bradley. He continued a crazy season on tour as he became the fourth rookie to win in 2011. The 24 year old who had won twice on the Hooters Tour beat Ryan Palmer on the first playoff hole of the HP Byron Nelson Championship to set the youngster up for the next two tears. A two year exemption to the tour is a bonus that can make the career of a rookie. Bradley made it interesting in the playoff by spraying his drive but after they moved a concession cart that was in his way he crafted a shot that got him to the green. He two putted for his first win and hasn’t stopped smiling since. Maybe from now on Pat Bradley will be introduced as “Keegan Bradley’s aunt.”
If you have a problem with a man crush stop here and head over to ESPN and listen to the nonstop NBA analysis. I could watch Tom Watson play golf forever. And it looks like Tom will compete forever. He wins the Senior PGA Championship for the second time and looks like the Watson of old doing it. One of Watson’s first books was entitled “Getting Up and Down with Tom Watson.” He was a master at getting the ball in the hole from around the green. That’s just how he did it in the playoff. He got up and down from a greenside bunker for birdie to beat David Eger. Eger was well known to the senior players long before he joined the tour. He was a rules official on the PGA Tour while Watson and his contemporaries were cashing checks on tour.
OK, so it wasn’t the Open Championship where Watson threatened to become the oldest major winner at Turnberry two years ago but it’s a great win for Watson. He still has it and can still get the ball in the hole on any course. “If this is the last tournament I ever win, it’s not a bad one,” Watson said. “I’m kind of on borrowed time out here at 61.”
by Jeff Skinner
Luke Donald was able to hold off a charging Lee Westwood and won the showdown for number one at The BMW PGA Championship. Tied after 72 holes, Donald birdied the first playoff hole and dethroned Westwood as number one in The Official World Golf Rankings. It is the first time Donald has claimed the top spot in the world as he is playing the best golf of his career. Donald had said earlier in the week that he thought he was playing the most consistent golf of anyone right now and his title today proves him right. It was not an easy win as Westwood battled like the scrapper he is and took Donald to extra holes before he surrendered his crown.
by Jeff Skinner
The folks down at the HP Byron Nelson Championship should just give Jordan Spieth a lifetime pass or a new computer or some music downloads or something, anything to show their appreciation to the kid. For the second year in a row this teenager has given this tournament plenty of buzz. The high school senior makes the cut for the second year in a row and is only five shots off the lead. Ryan Palmer and Sergio Garcia share the lead and amateur Speith is only five off the lead. It’s great to see Sergio playing well but the story here is Jordan Speith.
This youngster isn’t just here to hang out with the big boys. He’s here to beat the big boys. When asked what his goal was this week he said very plainly he wanted to win. “I want to win” he said. “I don’t care what everyone else says. … I’m confident, staying loose and seeing my friends in the crowd. Feeding off the crowd helps me.” Spoken like a teenager without any pressure on him at all. Keeping Speith close to the lead is the best thing for the Nelson and not to bad for Speith either. Oh, because he is playing so well he’ll probably miss a bit of his high school graduation as it starts at 4:00pm and he’ll probably still be on the course with the big boys.
Not to think that the PGA Tour is the only tour boasting a teenage challenger, The European Tour has one of their own. At the BMW PGA Championship Matteo Manassero is tied for the lead with Luke Donald and Alvaro Quiros. How is that for a leaderboard? Manassero continues his astonishing career with a chance at his third Euro Tour win at their biggest event. And he’s not shy about his chances either. “I think it’s a course where you have to be conservative, and attacking, obviously, attacking the right moment,” he said. “It’s a tough course. It suits me well, though. I like the shape. I like the way you have to hit shots and the way you have to put the ball in position to score well. So it’s a course that suits me. I think it’s difficult, but I think it’s less difficult than some other courses that don’t suit me at all. I like the course – that’s why I maybe find it a bit easier than someone else.”
Oh, to be young again, and have a world class game.
by Jeff Skinner
Excuse me for beating a dead horse but what Suzann Pettersen did during the final round of the Sybase Match Play was wrong then and it is wrong now. She spent the entire round walking off the green long before Cristie Kerr had putted out. I am not the only one that thinks so. Annika Sorenstam said the same thing on Morning Drive yesterday. She said whether it was calculated or not it was wrong and rude. She did state that she is very close with Pettersen but still said she would have been disturbed by her actions.
At last year’s Byron Nelson Championship high schooler, Jordan Spieth, stole the show as he tied for 16th in front of his hometown crowd. This year he is back at it again. After a rocky start he settled down to card a one under 69 and is tied for 31st after day one. The Texas High School Champion will be attending the University of Texas this fall but first he be trying to better last year’s finish at The Nelson. Can you say Cinderella story?
All right, I don’t know Mark Steinberg and I have little insight into the lives of professional sports agents. But let’s understand something here. Is there any chance that Steinberg went all Jerry McGuire at IMG and left without an assurance from Tiger Woods that he would stick with him? Steinberg knows how the game is played and I doubt he was caught by surprise. Maybe it was a calculated move to get out on his own but if Woods stays at IMG without “Steiney” ( as Woods calls him), Steinberg will be the most shocked man in the world.
Ernie Els is a great golfer and a really gracious guy but I think he has been drinking the Kool-Aid that Chubby Chandler has been mixing. First Westwood and McIlroy pass on The Players and now The Big Easy says that The European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship is a better tournament than The Players. Ernie needs to recuse himself from that debate. He designed the course and has a home there. That qualifies as a conflict of interest, sorry Ernie. The BMW is good tournament and boasts a field that is top heavy with players high in the Official World Golf Rankings but, and this is a big but. John Daly is in the field at The BMW. Are you kidding me? That alone knocks it down below The Players. Knock off the international pissing contest guys and play some championship golf please.
I agree with Luke Donald. He said he’s the best player in the world right now based on his consistent play and he’s right. Lee Westwood’s narrow lead is based on plenty of high finishes last year and two wins this year, one of which had the same field as the club championship at Bushwood. Donald had played the most consistent golf since the beginning of the year and if he keeps it up he’ll be number one soon enough. Now, if he could just add a major win to that record. “I think I’m the most consistent right now. I feel I’ve proven that over the last few months,” he said. ”I don’t know whether you choose someone who’s won Majors or go with someone who has chances every week, but naturally my view is consistency pays. Does the way I’ve been playing make me best at the moment? Yes, I think so.”
by Jeff Skinner
Like any self respecting golf fanatic I spend plenty of time with my television tuned to The Golf Channel. The addition of their new show “Morning Drive” has made my mornings a lot better and has knocked ESPN’s Mike & Mike off my TV. I enjoyed Greenie and Golic and maybe come football season I’ll tune back in but for now Morning Drive has won me over.
The team of Gary Williams and Erik Kuselias has a great job: they get to talk golf and a little bit of other sports all morning. The format is an exact copy of The Mike & Mike show that Kuselias used to frequent during his stint at ESPN. But the subject matter is 90% golf with a bit of pop culture and a small bit of current sports talk. That formula works fine with me.
Williams and Kuselias do a good job of touching on all the current golf topics and their banter is entertaining although Kuselias can try a bit too hard at times. The third member of the team is sure to appeal to those demographics that the Golf Channel covets. Holly Sonders is a young, attractive former college golfer (Big Ten Team Championship) that adds just enough sex appeal to keep all of us tuned in.
Morning Drive hit the ground running and has picked up speed each week. It looks like there isn’t a guest that they can’t get on the show. Plenty of golfers appear in studio or call in and everyone wants to get in on the act. They’ve had everyone from Arnie and Jack to Tiger and Phil. Ian Poulter hammed it up in studio and Bubba and Rickie vandalized each other’s posters. Annika is a regular contributor and she didn’t even miss a show after she gave birth to her second child. The merger of NBC Universal and Comcast has proved a boost to The Golf Channel as all the talent that covers golf for NBC is now available and Morning Drive has made good use of that connection.
The Golf Channel has given Morning Drive great support as all of their contributors have been a part of the show and that just makes the format that much better. There are plenty of interesting and insightful voices on The Golf Channel and Morning Drive is another vehicle for them.
For golfers the only thing better than playing golf is talking golf and Morning Drive gives us another outlet for that conversation. For my money Morning Drive is one of the best efforts of The Golf Channel.